Celebrating Independence Cage III: The Cage-aning!

12:45PM The Beginning

Well friends, another year has passed and the fourth of July is upon us! You know what that means, it's time to celebrate our freedom by watching a bunch of second-tier Nic Cage films on Netflix! Luckily our boy Cage keeps putting these films out at such a fast pace, this tradition is allowed to carry on for the third year in a row! I woke up this morning with a glow about me, thinking of everything that's happened over the last year, the people I've met, the places I've been, and it just makes me feel a bit cagey. So, let's start in the year of our Cage 2008 for the only film in today's lineup that wasn't released in the last year. Let's get dangerous. 

 
1:00PM Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

 
That was a hell of a way to start this year's Cage-a-thon. This is one of those films that always looked delightfully silly but happened to slip through the cracks for me. Once I started doing these write-ups, I knew I would have to save it for this and boy was it worth the wait. In this film, Cage plays a hitman named...John. He gives us a monotone and generic voiceover explaining who he is, what he does, and what his rules of the game are. Don't ask questions, don't get involved with people, tie up your loose ends, and know when to quit. Something tells me this hitman with a heart of gold will end up breaking all of his own rules by the end of this film. So, Johnny Cage knows he's coming to the end of his run in the killing game, going to Bangkok for one last job, which is actually four last jobs (Hey! Four films, four last jobs in the first film, I'm really killing this fourth of July theme!). He goes about his job in the usual way, hiring some local street-smart lowlife to be his errand boy and arranges to complete his jobs.  

 
But something happens during this final job, Johnny C. actually takes a liking to his new sidekick and starts to train him, he even feels a bit conflicted over whether or not to kill him and make it look like an overdose when the job is complete, as is the hitman's way. Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) learns from his obviously dyed, wispy-haired sensei in the ways of knife dodging and watermelon shooting. He says cute things like always calling Cage “Boss” and has a childlike wonder in asking Boss if every person he is going to kill is a “bad man”, like Cage's own little Short Round. Kong even gets to fall in love with a dancer names Aom (Panward Hemmanee) that he meets while running the boss' errands...too bad she'll probably be used by the bad guys later as leverage against his dear old boss. But Kong isn't the only boy falling in love in this film, as John-Boy also finds love with a deaf pharmacy worker named Fon (Charlie Yeung) that for some reason isn't disgusted by Cage sweating profusely while eating spicy food and not bothered that he makes zero effort to learn a little sign language to communicate with her. She's a keeper, let's hope his secret hitman lifestyle doesn't get in the way of their new romance! 

 

So, his secret hitman lifestyle gets in the way of their new romance. He is attacked by two guys while on a date with Fon and he's gotta shoot a couple of motherfuckers in the head right quick when her back is turned. I thought they were going to play it to where she never notices on account of not hearing the gun shots and then Cage would just try to play it off and lead her around the gore in a comical way, but she gets some blood splatter on her and turns around to be horrified that her new “banker” boy toy just executed two randos on the street, understandable. So begins our second act conflict leading to third act reconciliation...but wait, this isn't your standard romantic comedy, this is a Nic Cage actioneer! We also get some boss scenes of stuff like Cage cutting off a dude's arm with a motor boat propeller (and that shit twitches) and sticking a grenade on another dude's belt to blow him literally in half (best scene of the movie). Oh yeah, and some stuff about his last target being a politician that's actually good for the people and Cage having a change of heart and saving Kong and Aom from the real bad guys of the film and a bunch of bangbang blowemups, etc. etc.  

 
Overall, I had a really good time with this movie. It does feel a little long and that ending dragged the fuck out like nobody's business. To be fair, it's kind of hard to keep the momentum going from blowing a dude in half with a belt grenade, especially when you then slow to a crawl and try to make the film super serious and emotional. Ugh, just shoot me in the fucking head (wink). The action scenes are well done and have a decent style. The cinematography is interesting and does have some fun playing around with colors. The performances are all enjoyable and the script is...well, it's pretty dumb. But it's dumb fun and an easy movie to like. Plus, that Cage hair, dear lord that Cage hair. Next up we have what seems like a Nicolas Cage spin on a Lifetime movie or a Tyler Perry movie (one of the ones sans-Madea). 

 
3:30PM Inconceivable (2017) 

 
Well, that took the steam out of things. What the fuck did I just watch? It really is just like a Tyler Perry movie (it specifically reminded me of Acrimony, which I saw recently) in that the main theme of the movie seems to be, “Damn, women are crazy, right?”. Only this film focuses on the lovely theme of, “Damn, women are crazy about them babies, right?”. This film is baffling to me, it has some great talent in it that are even able to rise about how fucking stupid it is at times, but the film plays out in the most ridiculous of ways and just about every filmmaking choice makes it almost play like a parody. So, to be honest...I kinda loved it in a lot of ways. It's that kind of delightfully trashy unaware mess that also made me love Acrimony. Yeah, a lot of what the film says and does is kind of fucked up and idiotic, but damn does it find the most entertainingly dumb way to get there.  

 
Let me see if I can even explain this plot. Cage and Gina Gershon play a wealthy married couple with a young child who are desperate to have more babies, cuz life's all about babies, obviously. They already have a child, but apparently had their hearts set on having “a child in every room” of their ridiculous fucking mansion with guest house (they both doctors y'all). Gershon ends up meeting a woman named Katie (Nicky Whelan) who also has a young daughter the same age as theirs. Both the children and the adults become fast friends by being introduced by their mutual friend/gym instructor/kid playtime wrangler/lover (Natalie Eva Marie). Katie seems a little off, and we see in the opening scene that when her child was a baby, she killed her abusive husband in self-defense when he caught her trying to leave with the baby. But then we slowly learn that she was also a foster child and she donated her eggs which somehow messed up her ovaries making her unable to have children, so she stalks the families of the people she anonymously gave her eggs too in order to steal her babies back and have all the children that somewhat came from her that she can no longer have...cuz women be crazy bout them babies and she was an orphan, so obviously she must be a murderous monster, unlike these nice rich white people just trying to get their own baby game on.  

 
I'm not even fucking around, that's more or less the whole plot of the movie. Do you see where I get the Tyler Perry comparison, with these weird fucked up morality plays about the women being bonkers and causing their own downfall while the man is the greatest guy in the world so put upon by all this female craziness? This film actually was written by a woman named Chloe King, who has a wild list of film credits. Costume Jewelry on Valley Girl, Craft Service on Two Moon Junction, Vice President of Development on The Red Shoe Diaries, and some writing credits for that show along with writing Poison Ivy II. While she at least came up with the basic story, I doubt her script was this tone deaf. It also feels very apparent that there was a ton of naturalistic ad-libbing and playing around with the lines/talking over each other. Half of the movie feels like bad improv sessions. Which seems like it would come from the director, Jonathan Baker, who has just as much of an odd list of credits. Listed firstly as an actor, although he seems to have mostly just played himself in reality shows and shit like Entourage. He also has producer credits on Dirty Tennis and Dorf on Golf, two lovely video shorts shat out on VHS in the late 80s.  

 
Inconceivable is his directorial debut, and he decides to give himself the supporting role of family friend Barry, and I literally have no idea why this guy has a career. The directing thing wasn't all that great, with unnecessary handheld camera work during boring chit chat scenes and a pretty sleazy male gaze going on throughout the whole film. This isn't a steamy thriller like Fatal AttractionBasic Instinct, or Body of Evidence, but dude goes out of his way to show breasts for no real reason, even having a shot of Eva Marie running down the beach in a bikini, bouncing around in what almost feels like a slow-mo shot out of Baywatch, and you best believe he needlessly focuses on her butt walking away a few moments later. The acting thing isn't any better, he has an unremarkable monotone delivery and always seems like he isn't sure where he should be looking or what to do with his hands. Fucking Faye Dunaway is in this movie as Cage's mother! I love her, but I guess I haven't seen her in a while and whatever work she's had done is starting to make her look like the mother from Brazil. She's barely in the film and pretty much wasted anyway, though it was still nice to see her.  

 
Even our boy Cage is more third billed supporting and doesn't have much of a character, he is just the good guy, a completely loving and supporting husband. The movie really belongs to Gershon and Whalen, who both do some pretty great work here at times, an early scene of them confessing their stories and flaws to each other is actually really solid, but a few scenes like this are just surrounded with laughable melodrama. I am still absolutely recommending this movie though because I had zero idea of where it was going or how far it would take it and I laughed out loud from sheer shock and awe multiple times. Next up we are actually taking our marathon away from Netflix, because frankly I still don't want to watch Outcast or USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, so we're making a stop in Hulu town to watch Cage go koo-koo-bananas for the first time today. 

 
6:00PM Mom and Dad (2017) 

 
Wow. That movie made me happy and was pretty dope. It's not everything it could have been, but it was a solid try. It really feels like they kind of chickened out though. You set up a crazy fun premise like something causes parents to attack and murder their children, then motherfucker you need way more child deaths in your movie. If you're a proud self-respecting American like me, you love a good child death in film. This is the premise of this film, but we really only get implied deaths off camera or some suggestive shots. Come on, Brian Taylor, who went all out on the Crank films, you know that baby should have died.  

 
This is what I had been waiting for. So far, this Cage-a-thon had only seen subdued Cage, and we all know what we're really looking for in a marathon like this is Crazy Cage. Surprisingly though, most of his out there performance lies in the moments before he is compelled to kill his children. The bits I'd seen in advance of Cage smashing a pool table with a sledgehammer while singing the Hokey Pokey was just part of a regular old midlife crisis and had nothing to do with murdering children...and I'm completely on board. So Nic Cage and the always amazing Selma Blair (for real, she is MVP of this movie) are a married couple with two shitty children, a self-obsessed know it all teenage daughter and a bland whatever the fuck of a younger son (I don't like kids, y'all). Something happens that's kind of explained as a TV signal but then also maybe comes from the radio or is completely unrelated as the rules in this film are rather vague, that makes parents want to kill their children. People kind of go ape shit like any virus or zombie movie, but this makes parent only want to kill their own children and they can treat everyone else and other kids as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Pretty cool idea, bro.  

 
We follow this event happening all over the country, as well as seeing our two main parents slowly succumbing to it while also just dealing with the frustrations involving having children and things turning out differently than you wanted in life. We also follow several child characters as they deal with their murderous parents. It's a cool idea and has a lot going for it, but it could have used a bit more bite. Good example, there's a scene where Selma Blair goes to the hospital because her sister is giving birth to a new child. They go through this whole big scene and the sister is holding the baby in her arms as this static TV signal goes on and she seems to change to sinister, but then they go through another drawn out Selma Blair has to save and give up the baby scene that just felt like a cop out. You're coming at me with this bold concept? Then make some fucking bold moves. That mother should have turned and snapped that fucking babies neck right in her arms and announced that this film isn't fucking around. Whatever, it was a baby puppet anyway, we know that, go ALL IN.  

 
But this is a fun movie overall. I fucking adored the opening credits sequence, which labeled it as a throwback to gritty exploitation movies and had a great credit/music combo. But again, put your fucking money where your mouth is. Don't announce yourself as a throwback exploitation flick and then go easy on me. The actors are great across the board, even the child actors, which are usually the weakest link in any film like this. Selma Blair and Cage have a great chemistry and play fantastically off each other. This was a pick me up after the last film and something I would definitely recommend checking out. It just had the potential to be so much more and way more memorable. Either take it easy and explore more of the family dynamic, tackle what the cause of this is and the way to stop it or go all the way by not explaining it and being unforgiving in your kills and gore, chopping these little kiddies up gleefully. This movie was fun, but it just did a kind of uninspired middle ground that couldn't totally commit to one effective road. So, I was originally going to watch Vengeance on Netflix to close it out, but I heard from a friend today that it ain't so great, so I think I'll save that and take a chance on a brand-new Cage fest from the director of River's Edge and I'm already expecting fireworks.  

 
9:00PM Looking Glass (2018) 

 
Well hot damn, the third annual Independence Cage Marathon goes out with a fucking bang! I really dug this movie. It's got everything! You want to see Cage drink? You want to see Cage fight? You want to see Cage dance? You wanna see Cage fuck (twice)? Youwannasee Cage be a fucking creepy pervert? YouwannaseeCagestabMarcBlucasinthefuckingfacewithamirrorshard?!?!??! Looking Glass has got your back! This flick was a complete surprise for me as its description and poster made it seem like it was going to be some kind of supernatural horror film set at a desert motel, but it's actually just a really solid and sordid thriller that has some killer performances, a great style and look, and Nic Cage doing everything he does best! Plus, the added bonus of Robin Tunney murdering this role and having a great chemistry with Cage. I wish half the crap I watch for these things could be as entertaining as this flick.  

 
Cage and Tunney play a married couple that take over a sleazy motel to try and start their lives over after a tragedy strikes. Almost immediately the people that come to stay at the motel seem off and both of them seem uneasy in their new surroundings. It turns out this motel has a bad history and the old guy that sold it to them has up and vanished, while a local police officer comes around with a hidden agenda. We slowly find out the couple's back story and current dynamic as Cage begins investigating the weirdness now surrounding them, in the weirdest and creepiest way possible. You're never quite sure where the film is headed and it remains very subdued and mysterious until everything cranks up a few notches and everything comes to a head. It keeps feeling like it might lean over into supernatural or satanic elements, but it actually stays very grounded and just builds up the tension. The music, the cinematography, and the overall eerie vibe throughout has me just beaming right now. I'm actually not going to go too deep into this one because it's one I think more people should watch and shows that Cage can still do some solid and interesting work, even when he is playing around in weird little B-movies.

11:00PM The Aftermath

This Independence Cage was a smashing success for me and here's to hoping he plops out a whole slew of fodder for me in the coming year. That's what Independence Cage is all about. It's about having the freedom to style your hair in all sorts of ways that defy the laws of physics. It's about being able to go completely wild and act like a fucking lunatic...and get paid ridiculous amounts of money to do it. It's about using that money to buy yourself some fucking dinosaur bones and pyramids and whatever the fuck else your weird little heart desires. But most of all, it's about having the freedom to shut yourself off from the rest of the world and watch four Nic Cage movies back to back alone instead of interacting with friends and family, only to write about it in the most unprofessional and stream of consciousness way for at best a couple hundred people to read about. America!!!!   

July 4th, 2018